While I am thrilled to welcome back one of my best friends and favorite colleagues, Kim Pike, on the Dogster Guide to Behavior & Training, the reason for her post today makes me sad indeed. Pennsylvania, a state renowned for puppy milling, is thinking of repealing the few protections they have in place for puppy mill dogs. Read what Kim has to say and to find out what you can do to help!
The call came on Wednesday, March 1st, 2006. A Lancaster puppy miller had a bunch of dogs he no longer wanted. The rescues contact was told to pick them up by Saturday or the miller would shoot them. I was called that night and asked if I would foster a few mill kids. I said I would and on Saturday I met with the rescue contact and picked up three dogs I named Ginger, Brandi and Kaluha. I had to name them because these three dogs had never had a name before. They had never lived in a home. They had spent their entire lives in cages producing puppies for the pet trade.
I wish I could truly communicate the deplorable condition these dogs were in when I picked them up. A stench emanated from them, a smell that does not wash off even with multiple baths. The teeth of all three dogs were rotten and Kaluhas teeth upper and lower canine teeth were rotating in the sockets. All three dogs were terrified of people and transferring them from one car to another along a busy highway was no small task.
Even in 2006, Pennsylvania had some of the toughest dog laws in the country. In spite of this, Pennsylvania, and in particular Lancaster County, known as the Puppy mill Capitol of the East Coast, has some of the highest concentrations of commercial breeders in the United States. Dogs are kept in deplorable conditions, exposed to the elements, often going without vet care or anything resembling sanitary conditions. Unloved, these poor souls spend their entire lives in cages, surrounded by hundreds of other caged breeder dogs.
Pressure was brought to change the dog laws in Pennsylvania, but progress was slow. On July 24th, a Kutztown Pennsylvania kennel owner received four citations for kennel violations and was ordered to seek veterinary care for 39 dogs suffering from flea and fly bites. After being advised by his vet that it was legal, the miller shot and killed 70 small breed dogs. His brother shot and killed 10 dogs from his kennel.
The public outcry over this incident prompted the state to finally pass tougher dog laws and in October of 2008, Governor Ed Rendell signed HB 2525. The stipulations of HB 2525, now ACT 119, doubled the size of dog cages, banned the stacking of cages, mandated exercise periods along with veterinary care. It called for temperature control, ventilation, lighting, solid flooring, sanitation, smoke detectors and waste disposal. It created a Canine Health Board and a Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement to define and enforce the laws.
But even as it was being passed, this bill was having its teeth pulled. Millers who had not had any violations within the past three years were given a three year waiver before the provisions set in. The maximum cage height was raised from 12 to 30 inches which still allows for the stacking of cages. Instead of solid flooring, slatted flooring became permissible, still allowing for dogs legs to slip through and become caught. Rather than requiring a veterinarian give the rabies vaccinations, the wording changed to allow that vaccination to be delivered under the supervision of a veterinarian. While the original bill required temperature regulations of 50-85 degrees F, the revision only required that kennel owners make an effort to regulate temperatures.
In 2009, a 30,819 dollar low interest loan was awarded under the state’s Renewable Energy Program to a kennel that breeds designer dogs. The kennel in question is a CK6 kennel, meaning it breeds and/or sells over 500 dogs a year. PA state representative James E. Casorio Jr. responding to this by saying:
“This industry has been the scourge of Pennsylvania for decades. Last year, we passed a sweeping new law to protect the animals trapped in these commercial kennels, and now we’re giving these facilities state money to expand even more? And at a time when critical services and programs for children, seniors and other people are being cut or eliminated altogether? Whatever kind of guidelines are in place that allow commercial dog kennels to apply for and obtain state financing need to be re-examined.
These factory-type breeding operations are inhumane by definition. They are the kind of operation that leads to incredible suffering for the dogs that are sentenced to spend their entire lives breeding in them, and for the hundreds of puppies each year they produce that end up unwanted or in abusive situations. Pennsylvanians looking for pets should be avoiding these puppy mills, and the state certainly should not be financing them.”
While the bill was not perfect, it was still a move in the right direction and applauded throughout the country by animal advocates and dog lovers alike. But now legislation has been introduced into the PA House of Representatives that calls for the gutting of this act. HR 89 basically says that the number of commercial kennels in Pennsylvania has been reduced by 75%, that the closure of these kennels has caused the loss of numerous full-time and part-time positions, the loss of several million dollars in sales tax and the loss of many millions of dollars in taxable income. It further postulates that due to the loss of commercial dog kennels veterinary services industry has lost considerable income and that the sale of pet products and dog food has significantly declined. The bill directs the Joint State Government Commission to study and review the economic impact of the act of October 9, 2008, on the regulated commercial dog kennel industry, its business service sectors and the Commonwealth and the estimated impacts of the implementation of the regulatory standards which take effect on July 1, 2011.
I was under the impression that ACT 119 was passed in order to do exactly what this resolution initially charges it with: reduce the number of commercial kennels in Pennsylvania. Could it be that ACT 119 has done its job too well?
The ASPCA says House Resolution 89 is a veiled attempt at protecting the puppy mill industry by questioning the reasonableness and appropriateness of the new standards of care that were implemented in 2008, including regulations that are set to go into effect July 1, 2011. These regulations include critical temperature, ventilation and humidity requirements for commercial kennels. HR 89 is a stepping stone toward undoing much of the meaningful change for dogs that was achieved in 2008.
Please email your state representative today and urge him or her to oppose House Resolution 89, which endangers the 2008 improvements made to the Dog Law. If we allow our legislature to let economics make us compromise on what we know is right, are we any better than the millers who make their money off the misery of mans best friend?
2011 Kim Pike